Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Test #3: Do you love the world or Him?

I should use the title "How do I know I love Him more than the world?"  I've got to be honest, I'm pretty fond of the world.  By "world" I mean my house, my cars, my job, vacations, etc.  Basically I find myself more "in love" with what He's given me than with Him.  This prompts me to ask the question if I love Him more.  I can't remember where I first heard it, I'm sure it was in a sermon somewhere, but there are multiple words in the Greek language which we translate "love" in English.  For example, I love my computer and I love my wife.  I certainly hope there is a different kind of love for my computer versus my wife.  I love football and I love my daughter.  I love the world and I love God.

1 John 2:15-17 reads as follows:
"Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the wold, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." NIV
Let's first look at "love" and try to get a better handle on which love John is discussing.  In the verses above the Greek word translated love is agape. The following is a brief description:
"THE NEW TESTAMENT LOVE-WORD agape has been so sanitized and compromised that we now have a word for love that we like. Of all the words for love studied so far, agape is the one word for love we shouldn’t like. The other loves are different; we’re supposed to like them.
The beautiful word hesed is the beautiful love: steadfast love. The gentle word racham is the gentle love: compassion. The delicious word philos has a great sandwich named after it: the philly cheese steak. These are all good loves. We can burn out showing all of them. But in their proper place and with the proper balance, these loves are supremely, satisfyingly human. They are also wonderfully divine.
But agape is a pain in the neck. Agape is brutal love.
Why else would the Greeks eschew this word? Was it because they knew what it really meant?
Yes, of course, because they knew that agape is the love-word for absolute, unself-centered, brutal sacrifice. Its central meaning for the New Testament derives from Jesus’ death on the cross: “For God so loved (agapao) the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is about God sacrificing his Son. Steadfast love, compassion, and delight are all part of God’s love for us, and they are all part of the sacrifice. But the sacrifice is agape. Jesus liked the sinners he spent time with; steadfast love was his only way of thinking; compassion for him was like breathing. But in his act of agape, his tone changed, and so did the tone of his disciples."
Hansen, D., & Goetz, D. L. (1998). Vol. 1: The power of loving your church : Leading through acceptance and grace. The pastor's soul series; Library of leadership development (99–100). Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House.
I want to show the difference between agape and philos for just a minute.  1 John 4:9,10 tells us that God showed us agape  by sending His Son to die on the cross for us, that He loved us not because we loved Him.  Contrast this with John 21:15-17 and Peter's response to Jesus.  I'm going to substitute agape and philos in there discussion to make the point of difference between the two:
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly agapao Me more than these?'  'Yes Lord,' he said, 'You know that I phileo You.'  Jesus said, 'Feed My lambs.'  Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly agapao Me?'  He answered, 'Yes, Lord, You know that I phileo You.'  Jesus said, 'Take care of My sheep.'  The third time He said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you phileo Me?'  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you phileo Me?'  He said, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I phileo you.'  Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep.'" - John 21:15-17 NIV
Peter is admitting to Jesus the kind of love he has for Him and its not the same kind of love that Jesus had for Peter!  1 John tells us that the Father is deeply committed to us to the point of sacrificing His Son for us, yet Peter says "You're a good friend."  Do you see the difference here?  I am called to agapao my wife as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25).  He loved me before I loved Him; He gave His life so that I might have life; His love came at a price to Him.

Let's bring this back to our test of whether we love Him or love the world.  Take a look at our passage with the Greek:
"Do not agapao the world or anything in the world.  If anyone agapao the world, the agape of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." NIV
 Are you willing to lay down your life in the pursuit of the world?  Will you sacrifice your family for the "cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does?"  I offer that you cannot have agape for more than one master.  Matt 6:24 tells us, "No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and agapao the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money." NIV.   I would offer that "money" in Matthew and "world" in 1 John are interchangeable; you can either love God or love the world, but not both.

I've got to tell you, the more I read this passage the more convicted I am of my sin, of my pursuit of my ends and not His.  I can see why Paul told us to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling!"  I think of the time I spend chasing after this world, the money I spend, the thoughts I think, the words out of my mouth...I could very easily spiral into doubt of my salvation.  And here is where I realize that as I look to myself, my track record, my ability, my commitment to Him; I miss the point.  He loved me first!  He paid the price already!  Here is how we are assured of our salvation even in the midst of our sin:
"This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything." - 1 John 3:19,20 NIV
Does your heart condemn you for your pursuit of the world, for your sin?  I've found that salvation wrecks my enjoyment of sin because of the guilt, remorse and repentance His Spirit stirs within me.  By virtue of the fact you are convicted in your heart of your sin, You are saved.  Please remember that salvation is not based on your works (Eph 2:8,9) nor is your post-salvation life with Him!!  You can't get in because of you and you can't earn a continuing spot on the roster because of you either.  Your agape for Him is from Him, by Him, and through Him.  It is from His love for you that assurance is gained.

Father, please forgive me if I've misrepresented You or Your word today.  Please convict our hearts by Your Holy Spirit of the truth and guide us in Your way.  Thank you that our assurance is based on what You did, what You continue to do, on Your very character, and not on us.  I love you Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

1 comment:

  1. The word of God is always a mirror to me ... revealing my sin. Thanks for sharing. I thank God for His agape love and pray that it will be poured into me.